What does a city look like at night from a hill top?
The last evening of the year that has just gone by provided me the opportunity to get that look.
On a whim, Vasanth and I decided to take a path less taken on 31.
We had an invitation to check out an all-night programme organised by a bunch of Thamizh writers and local artists in the Sri Karaneeswarar Koil zone in Saidapet.
This is a New Year-eve event which has been held for some years now - sale of books, on-the-spot painting, book releases, folk art and poetry readings.
What caught my attention were the traditionally designed houses that pockmarked the inner streets here.
We crawled out of west Saidapet and hit Butt Road - our destination, the hill of saint Thomas.
As we drove, very slowly around the base of the hill, little, lighted stars which hung from the inner courtyards or drawing rooms of houses on the fringe showed up. As we climbed up, the stars got a better life in the 11 p.m. darkness. From one house, the strains of Christmas carols escaped on to the kutcha road.
I was tempted to ring up Customs officer Richard - he and his folks have lived on the mount for many, many years and sharing a glass of homemade wine would have been most appropriate.
I didn't call - perhaps the family would be preparing to go for Holy Mass at St. Patrick's.
More lighted stars, dangling from the gates and corridors of the many Christian institutions on this mount greeted us - this was indeed Christmasland. The best such sight I had enjoyed before was the legendary Moore Market, now no more.
Then came the first eyesore - dozens of gaudy, green tubelights, dozens of stars of all sizes and a few stuffed Santa images, all part of what was called the Christmas park.
At the top of the mount, we expected quiet, stillness and darkness. But the second eyesore greeted us - a shocking excavation close to the historic little church, granite paved floors on the mount and a garish open-air stage.
We fled to the serene side of the mount - Vasanth wanted to greet the nuns of the Home for Abandoned Children. It was peaceful here - the kids had all gone to bed. From the edge we gazed at a city bathed in orange, cars, buses and bikes crawling about madly and a faint roar from the distant airport.
The mount, that night had a life of its own.